While her mother and the other women of her Himalayan village slave on a tea plantation, young Tashi spends the day in the shade, playing and sharing her food with the monkeys from the surrounding forests. When her mother becomes too ill to work, Tashi tries to gather leaves herself in a pitiful attempt to earn money for a doctor, but her efforts earn only the contempt of the callous overseer. Tashi retreats exhausted to share her woes with the monkeys, who promptly steal her basket and ascend into the clouds.
This is a very beautiful book. The story, based on Himalayan tales collected by the authors, is illustrated with visionary-romantic paintings, in which sublime landscapes, imperial splendour and human misery are depicted in radiant detail. The outcome recalls motifs from stories like ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’ and Hanuman’s role in ‘The Ramayana’. In an afterword, the writers mention the dangers undergone by pioneering merchants bringing now common commodities to Europe. Would that the plight of the families who toil even now on the plantations be as much a thing of the past, and their troubles as amenable as Tashi’s to mythical intervention.